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'Gutshot Straight' is a funny caper novel filled with crooks and worse crooks

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Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney


"Gutshot Straight" by Lou Berney is light breezy read that defies easy categorization since its really about a heist by crooks against worse crooks. This Barry Award winner for best first novel in 2011 is a fun read.

Shake is a recently released felon who takes a job from the head of the Armenian Mob, a woman named Alexandra Levy, to drive to Vegas, drop off a car, pick up a package in a briefcase from the Whale, a nasty mobster in Vegas, and return. On the way, Shake finds out that a woman named Gina is in the trunk of his car. Gina, who of course is blond and hot, spins a load of shine at Shake and states she is the Mormon wife of a man who owes the Whale.

When Jasper, the Whale's chief henchman comes to pick up Gina, Shake hits him with a phone book and takes Gina, who purloins the briefcase that the Whale was going to give to Levy, and they both make a run for it. Of course, Shake doesn't run far because within a few minutes Gina has roofied him and skedaddled with the briefcase. Gina, of course is a stripper, who was in the trunk because she stole from the Whale.

The package turns out to be fake religious artifacts, allegedly the foreskins of 100 men that David (of David and Goliath fame) killed to prove to Solomon that he was a good warrior.

Berney has a breezy style, and the dialogue is crisp and neat. There are some funny situations like when Shake visits the home of a felon in jail and steals his car by pretending to be his friend.

Shake and Gina eventually get together in Panama to try to sell the foreskins while the Whale, Levy and various others are there too. It all goes around and around, with Berney adding other characters, like the shy bookish guy Boxman (rhymes with Cocksman) whose pocket is picked by Gina and, while is no real cocksman somehow gets a girl.

The ending is not expected and Gina and Shake take the reader for a fun little ride.


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